A look at where we stand this September during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

By Al Saint Jacques, MDLinx
Published January 13, 2016

Key Takeaways

According to statistics from the American Cancer Society (ACS), cancer is the second leading cause of death in children behind accidents. About 10,380 children in the United States under the age of 15 are expected to be diagnosed with cancer in 2015, and approximately 1,250 children younger than 15 years old are predicted to die from cancer this year.

Although the rates of childhood cancer have been rising slightly for the past several decades, childhood cancers make up less than 1% of all cancers diagnosed each year.

The good news is that because of major treatment advances in recent decades, more than 80% of children with cancer survive 5 years or longer. Overall, this is a huge increase since the mid-1970s, when the 5-year survival rate was approximately 58%. However, survival rates vary depending on the type of cancer and other factors. Survival rates for different cancer types from the section on “Surviving childhood cancer,” can be seen below.

According to the ACS, the 5-year survival rates for the time period between 2004 and 2010 for the more common childhood cancers include:

  • Acute lymphocytic leukemias: 89%
  • Acute myelogenous leukemias: 64%
  • Brain and other central nervous system tumors: 72%
  • Wilms tumors: 90%
  • Hodgkin lymphomas: 97%
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphomas: 88%
  • Rhabdomyosarcomas: 68%
  • Neuroblastomas: 79%
  • Retinoblastomas: 97%
  • Osteosarcomas: 71%
  • Ewing sarcomas: 75%

It should be noted that 5-year survival rates are based on the patients who were diagnosed and treated over 5 years ago. Improvements in treatment can often result in a better prognosis for patients diagnosed more recently.

The ACS explains that many childhood cancers can be detected early although signs and symptoms can be hard to recognize because of their similarity to more common imjuries or illnesses. It is important that children have regular medical check-ups. They should be checked for unusual signs or symptoms that do not subside very quickly. Some of these include the following:

  • An ongoing pain in one area of the body
  • An unusual lump or swelling
  • Easy bruising
  • Frequent headaches, often with vomiting
  • Limping
  • Sudden eye or vision changes
  • Sudden unexplained loss of weight
  • Unexplained fever or illness that doesn’t go away
  • Unexplained paleness and loss of energy

If a child is diagnosed with cancer, the ACS has a document Children With Cancer: Dealing With Diagnosis that offers some insights for coping and moving forward after the diagnosis is made.

The ACS also offers other resources that can provide information and guidance

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